The UHF radio on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter that had gone into standby mode yesterday was successfully restarted. The orbiter was then able to receive information from the Phoenix Mars Lander late Tuesday evening and relay the transmission to Earth, which included images and other data collected by Phoenix during the mission’s second day after landing on Mars. The radio system used by the orbiter to communicate with the lander experienced an undetermined “transient event” early Tuesday and shut itself off. This prevented sending Phoenix any new commands from Earth on Tuesday. Instead, the lander carried out a backup set of activity commands that had been sent Monday, which included taking additional pictures of itself and the landing site. Above is one of the raw, unprocessed image the lander took of itself.
We’ve gotten used to the panoramic images of Mars from the Mars Exploration Rovers, and we can expect more of the same from Phoenix. Above is the beginnings of a panoramic view of the lander and its surroundings. The Surface Stereo Imager is in the process of taking multiple images, which the imaging team will process and piece together to form a a large color panorama.
And how do these raw, black and white images become colorful photos and panoramas? At left is a calibration target on Phoenix. It has grayscale and color dots. Before launch, the calibration targets are imaged and measured very accurately, so that the imaging team back on Earth knows what the colors and different shades of grey are.
Once on Mars, a picture is taken of the target. The picture will be processed through the software they use, and if it comes out looking the same as the pictures taken of the target before launch, the imaging team knows they have processed the picture correctly. They then use the same technique to process the images of Mars surface, and produce images that are as close as possible to the “real” colors on Mars.
Here’s one more raw image, the beginnings the panorama of the entire spacecraft, of the SSI camera looking down on the spacecraft itself.
Image Source: Phoenix Gallery